“I could see how happy he was, we were so connected with him,” said Principal Jessica Petrilli. “Every day I was amazed at how well he was doing.”
In addition to housing assistance, community schools like Helms typically provide health screenings, family support, counseling and other services to families while acting as community hubs. The concept has been steadily growing in California for decades, and now that the state has launched a $3 billion community schools grant program through 2028, hundreds more schools in lower-income areas will begin the transition. Existing community schools also will be able to either expand their services, or keep them going if their district makes budget cuts.
“Kids really don’t just come to school to learn, they come to school to grow, and they can’t learn if their basic needs aren’t met,” said Joyce Synnott, community schools director for Helms. “School is a place of contact for families, they drop off and pick up their kids, so it’s an access point and a hub for the community.”
The State Board of Education last month approved the first round of planning and implementation grants through the California Community Schools Partnership program, totaling $635 million for 265 school districts, county offices of education and charter schools.
Of the 265, 192 will receive $200,000 two-year planning grants in the first round. The other 73 districts, with at least some existing community schools, will receive implementation grants covering 444 schools.
Though the program is only in its first year and has yet to use up all of its seed money, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state education leaders are saying funding is needed in order to meet the demand.
The state budgeted $400 million for the first round of implementation grants, and received requests totaling about $749 million, according to a State Board of Education report for its May 18 meeting. Additionally, many schools that would have been eligible for planning grants this round didn’t apply.
Newsom pitched adding another $1.5 billion to the program in his revised 2022-23 budget proposal, but the Legislature seeks to cut it along with some of Newsom’s other proposals in order to add $4.5 billion to the Local Control Funding Formula.